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25 per cent of employees steal work time
Time theft becoming more prevalent
Technology makes illicit activity easier

ARE you one of the 25 per cent of employees costing employers an estimated $1 billion a year in lost productivity by stealing work time?

Employers have been looking at the costs of workplace time theft since Robert Half published a report in 1983 estimating that the average employee steals four hours and 15 minutes a week – more than five full work weeks a year.

For many years, some employees have engaged in “moonlighting”, which involved working in a second job in the evenings or weekends.

But employees are now squeezing in outside work during a regular shift, creating a new and growing phenomenon called “daylighting”, The Courier-Mail reports.

It could be writing computer programs, creating graphic designs, typing university assignments or completing some other task in the employer’s time in return for payment from an outside source.

Time theft has always been a problem, but it is becoming more prevalent. With workdays becoming longer and workloads becoming more demanding, employees are two-timing the boss.

There are many demands placed on people outside their work. Employees try to get some of it done during work time or they may arrive late or leave early to try to meet these non-work responsibilities.

Gen Y in particular does not feel the sense of loyalty to employers that older workers do. Older workers are comfortable with going to work, then going home. Work and recreation time are separate. Younger workers prefer to mix work and play on the boss’s time.

Access to technology has made illicit workplace activity much easier. A survey of 1500 employees conducted by a HR management solutions company reported that respondents admitted spending up to two hours a day taking part in some sort of non-work activity.

Companies often provide employees with a range of mobile communication technology and expect them to be always available. The result is a tendency for employees to say: “If I need time during the day for personal needs, I am going to take it”.

Popular activities associated with cyberbludging include personal emails and phone calls, online shopping, social networking and games.

US sociologist Abby Schoneboom says part of the the fun of cyberbludging comes from the strenuous efforts to conceal it. A carefully rehearsed cover-up story to disguise such activity imbues stolen work time with a heightened value and excitement.

Alternative views argue that electronic breaks are not distracting employees from their work but actually increasing staff efficiency and morale. These findings are based on university trials carried out on a cross-section of British businesses.

Many employers, however, are combating alleged productivity losses and inappropriate use of workplace resources by either downsizing or salary reduction.

An employment law firm conducted research and found that seven out of 10 companies ban access to social networking sites and are considering banning personal internet access altogether.

In these tough economic times employees should be prepared to either face legal action or accept dismissal if they get caught stealing the bosses’ time. Surely it is fraudulent behaviour.

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